Foxton may get river loop reopened

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 12/06/2014

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Foxton residents are a step closer to again living beside a flowing section of the Manawatu River.

Horizons Regional Council has agreed to be part of a working party to look at options for the reopening of the Manawatu River Loop at Foxton.

The loop is clogged by silt at one end, leaving water in the river behind Foxton stagnant, high in E coli and reportedly devoid of aquatic life.

Save our River Trust spokesman and Horowhenua District councillor Michael Feyen said Foxton's future was tied to the reopening of the loop.

"There's no future without flow," he said.

Supported by a delegation of about 20 Horowhenua residents, including district councillors and Foxton Community Board members, Feyen told yesterday's Horizons catchment operations committee that the loop was a health hazard that offered Foxton no recreational opportunities.

Foxton Community Board chairwoman Janine Smart told the committee the town had been in the "social and economic doldrums" for many years.

There were potential business opportunities in the town and reopening the loop, which she called Foxton's backyard, would support these coming to fruition.

"This is our backyard, would you invest in a property that has a backyard like ours? If your backyard turned from a free-flowing healthy river to this E coli and silt-laden mess, what would you do?

"Right now we have the opportunity to turn ourselves around economically and socially, but we're asking for your help to achieve this."

This year the Foxton Community Board passed a recommendation to be part of a working group with SORT.

The loop has been a passage to nowhere since 1943 when the then Ministry of Works diverted the Manawatu River in a botched attempt at building a flood spillway known as the Whirokino Cut. The work was meant to control floods in the Manawatu River, but the cut suddenly became the dominant river route, with the old path practically cut off at the upstream end.

SORT has been lobbying for 30 years to have the loop reopened and several reports have been commissioned about repair.

The most recent, by Horizons in 2012, concluded that reopening the loop would cost several million dollars and require construction of a weir in the Manawatu River.

SORT's latest proposal is to reopen the loop via a new channel at the end of the Moutua Spillway, upstream of the river's original course.

The organisation is working on a resource consent and believes it can do the work, with donations of labour and machinery, for about $30,000.

SORT member Tony Murdoch said SORT would assist with ongoing maintenance of the channel.

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Horizons councillors were unanimous yesterday in their support for a working group, though finding the right wording took several minutes.

Cr John Barrow said the will of the Foxton community was at odds with the information Horizons had. "The problem here is we have an engineering report that says it's not going to work and a community that wants it to happen for a number of reasons."

- Manawatu Standard

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